The University of Toronto's School Of Cities was announced this May, bringing together "researchers from across various disciplines to address the myriad challenges facing the world’s urban areas, where more than half the population now lives."
On Tuesday, May 15, this new school hosted its first conference at the Chestnut Conference Centre to frame the issues that the new school will be discussing when it launches officially on July 1.
The keynote speaker was Richard Florida, a U of T professor and director of cities at the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management.
As part of my research for Central, I was able to attend the event that Tuesday. The full four hours of conversations and presentations is now available on YouTube for those interested among the general public. I cut right to Florida in the clip below.
He begins his talk with the notion that cities and clusters of tech companies, the source of many high-paying jobs in many of North America's most affluent metro areas, are tied together. However, it's not an entirely harmonious partnership.
"I'm so nervous that if we try to restrict development, that if people get angrier and angrier about gentrification and housing unaffordability, if this budding conflict between tech and the city gets worse, we will begin to impose real limits on technological innovation," he says.
"That's why its in all of our interests - communities, city builders, urbanists, and most importantly large tech companies - to get on with the business of city building."
Florida goes on to say that Toronto is a great place for people and companies "because of decades worth of investment in building robust public goods" like universities, transit, good government, open borders, quality healthcare, and industrial mix.
"A package of public investment," he calls it.
I would characterize his argument as ' what makes cities good for people is also what makes them good for companies to invest in.'
The three other sessions from that day - all included in the video - are, in order:
Working Together: Building the City-Region of the Future
Smart Cities: The Quest for Inclusive Urban Prosperity
In Conversation - City Building for Innovation and Inclusion